Raymond Ross visits Carrick Academy and a cluster of primary and special schools to see how personal and civic values education affects a community
Dear Councillor Murray, My name is Katherine Blythe and I am in Primary 7, 11 years old.
Perhaps you have heard of Minishant Primary and its values: respect, fairness, honesty, responsibility and caring. We do our best to keep these values and try to encourage other people to make an effort too.
But we need a little help to improve our community and environment.
The school is brightly painted and has recently had new blinds in the hall, but the curtains in the community wing are literally in tatters. Ripped beyond repair. Some say they have been there 30 years, in which case they will be swarming with bacteria, and not making the best impression. Also they lend a certain aroma, slightly off-putting for visitors. Would it be possible to install blinds? ... Yours sincerely, Katherine Blythe This letter is an example of values education in action: the school had new blinds within a week after all the headteacher's requests had gone unheeded.
"Values education does impact on achievement," says headteacher Val Freeman. "Responsibility includes responsibility for your own learning.
"We are 99 per cent certain it's made a difference to the honesty of the children.
"They use the value words themselves a lot. Comments overheard by the school captains include: 'That's not caring for our toys', 'You have to be responsible for your own things' and 'You are not giving me respect'."
Values are instilled through books the children fill in to show what they have done to promote their values at school, at home and in the community.
The youngest children have a values poem and colouring book and there is a values tree with cards saying things like "Believe in yourself, YOU can do it".
The pupils organise coffee mornings, Burns suppers, concerts and daffodil teas for the village community.
The pupils call their school "Magic Minishant" and greet visitors with their own values song. Then the 28 children in this village school wait eagerly to have lunch with their guests.
After dining with us and reciting some of their poems, the children spill out into the playground. At the end of the break they tidy up all the games and toys unbidden. If they take that particular value home, there must be a lot of happy parents in Minishant.